December is synonymous with joy due to Christmas and New Year's celebrations, but it is also a time for reflection and responsibility. As a social advisor, it is my duty to keep you informed about health issues, and although it may seem like an interruption in our joy, it is crucial to share delicate information that requires our utmost attention. On December 1, the world commemorates World AIDS Day, a time to support those living with HIV and remember those who have died from AIDS-related diseases.
Interestingly, people have been identified who never contracted AIDS despite being exposed to the virus by having an infected partner. Research on their genome revealed the CCR5 Delta 32 mutation on chromosome 3, where 32 base pairs are deleted, preventing the AIDS virus from binding to the immune system's cells. This mutation, present in more than 2 million people, mainly Europeans, confers immunity to AIDS.
The CCR5 Delta 32 mutation is frequent in various European populations but almost nonexistent in Asians, Middle Eastern populations, and Native Americans, suggesting a unique mutation after the divergence of Europeans from their African ancestors. During the AIDS pandemic, there was concern that knowledge of this mutation could lead to irresponsible sexual behavior.
Today, although AIDS mortality has decreased, in Miami there is an alarming incidence of new HIV infections, especially among people aged 20 to 39 years, placing the city at the top in the United States in this regard. It is estimated that there is 1 case of AIDS for every 20 African Americans and 1 for every 30 Latinos. The lack of annual preventive check-ups and unprotected promiscuity contribute significantly to this increase.
Health insurances usually cover an annual AIDS test, using blood and oral mucosa to detect HIV. Antibody, antigen, and nucleic acid (NAT) tests are used. An antigen-antibody test can detect the virus just 11 days after infection, and the healthcare provider will determine the most appropriate test. In case of a positive result, follow-up tests are performed to confirm the infection and differentiate between HIV-1 and HIV-2.
No special preparation is required for the test. During blood sampling, some people may experience pain or a slight bruise, but the discomfort is minimal and temporary. Oral swab and urine samples are painless and less accurate than blood samples.
HIV tests are performed for various reasons, including sexually active people, high-risk groups, certain conditions, pregnant women, or as part of a general check-up. A negative result is usual, but it does not rule out an early infection. If HIV infection is confirmed, antiviral treatments, contact tracing, condom use, and PrEP are recommended to prevent transmission.
The U.S. federal government invests millions annually in treatments and support for AIDS patients, but the statistics in Miami are worrying, with high rates among African Americans and Latinos. AIDS has become a chronic disease, and it is essential to maintain healthy and responsible habits to prevent infections and improve the quality of life.